Sunday, May 18, 2014
by Tracey Porter
Four out of five stars
Reviewed by Sesana
When sixteen-year-old Lark Austin is kidnapped from her Virginia hometown and left to die in a snowy forest, she leaves behind two friends who are stunned by the loss. As Lark's former best friend, Eve can't shake the guilt that this tragedy was somehow her fault. Meanwhile, Nyetta is haunted each night by Lark's ghost, who comes through the bedroom window and begs Nyetta to set her soul free. Eve and Nyetta realize that Lark is trapped in limbo, and only by coming together to heal themselves will they discover why.
This is a small book, and I read it very quickly, but I think it's going to stay with me for awhile. It's risky, especially in such a short book, to use three POVs. Porter was able to juggle them quite well, enough to make each of the three voices distinct. The fantasy elements are quietly integrated into the book, without entirely taking over until the end.
But what made this book most effective for me was the way that Porter confronts rape culture, using thoughts that make sense for a teen girl to have, especially when using Eve's POV. When she wonders why nobody seems to be trying to keep girls from getting murdered, when she gets angry that all she and her friends are being told is what <i>they</i> should do to avoid being victims, when she notes (sadly? bitterly? both) that girls getting raped and murdered is normal... They're honest, painful reactions to the reality that Eve is being confronted with. I wouldn't call this a Message book, but it definitely has something to say.
But there is a certain flatness to the book, mostly in the peripheral characters. This is probably a side effect of how short the book is, and how internal all three POVs are. I got absorbed enough in the three girls' interlocking stories that I hardly noticed until I was thinking about the book later. But I did read this very quickly, in one sitting without major interruption, which probably helped the flow.
Lark is beautifully written, which makes it bearable to read. Because otherwise it's painful, without solutions or answers to the larger issues. Which is, I'm sorry to say, terribly realistic. Maybe what Porter is saying is that, unless evil is confronted, nothing can be done to stop it. The answer isn't telling girls to wear modest clothing and take self defense, it's creating a world where wearing a leotard after gymnastics class isn't a justification.